After about seven months of work and one highly visible house move that attracted national attention, construction work on the Schifter property on Chappaquiddick is coming to a close. A barge is expected to come into the Edgartown harbor this week to remove equipment and Richard Schifter said his family expects to spend Thanksgiving back in their relocated home.
About a year ago the Edgartown conservation commission approved emergency measures to stem erosion at the Schifter’s Wasque property. With a series of winter storms eating away at a coastal bluff, town boards in March approved plans to move the 8,300-square-foot home, as well as a guest house and a garage on the property.
When the house was built in 2007, it was about 220 feet away from a coastal bluff. Last winter, consultants for the project said the area had erosion rates of about .87 feet a day, and by March, the bluff was 39 feet away from the Schifter guest house.
In the spring, moving equipment arrived on Chappaquiddick via barge, as did employees from International Chimney Company and Expert House Movers of Maryland. The area was stripped of vegetation, much of it stored off-site, and giant trenches were dug around the foundations of the structures and between the old and new house locations. A pool and retaining walls were removed, to be rebuilt farther inland, and the guest house and garage were removed from their foundations before being moved. The Schifter home was excavated and then put up on huge steel beams. In late June, with the aid of a series of small dollies and with its foundation intact, the house was slowly moved 275 feet to its new location. Today the house sits 290 feet away from the bluff. Reached by telephone Thursday, Mr. Schifter told the Gazette that he was “pleased with how smoothly the actual physical move was,” and said the family is looking forward to enjoying Thanksgiving in the house at its new location.
He noted that besides some minor, superficial cracks that have already been painted over, nothing was broken during the house move. “The pictures remained on the walls and nothing fell off the shelves,” he said.
With the move completed, the trenches have been backfilled and the large piles of soil that once surrounded the site are mostly gone. Landscaping remains unfinished.
In an Oct. 24 report to the town conservation commission and planning board, engineer George A. Sourati with Sourati Engineering Group outlined some recent developments. The garage slab has been poured and the guest house foundation is completed and “awaits removal of the move steel.” Utility line installation is under way for the main house, guest house and garage, and finish work has proceeded for all of the buildings.
Peter Wells, owner of the Chappaquiddick Ferry, said this week that a barge is scheduled to arrive at Chappy point on Nov. 4 to take away the steel beams and moving equipment. A crane is scheduled to come Nov. 1. The site of the crane and barge should be familiar to Chappy residents; they also came in the spring to deliver the equipment to Chappaquiddick.
Mr. Wells noted that for a few days next week, the barge will be tied up at the point on the north side of the ferry slip while the ferry is operating with one boat (the main ferry has been hauled for maintenance). He said he anticipates no problems and said the Schifter move in general has had very little impact on the ferry. “I would say that for the most part, regular old stuff. I do see a gravel truck now and then, a flatbed truck,” Mr. Wells said, adding:
“In general, the Schifter project hasn’t been that big a deal this fall.”
Coastal environmental issues remain to be wrapped up around the Schifter project as well. By special permission of the conservation commission, for about a year coir envelopes — coconut fiber filled with sand — have been stacked against the bluff to stem further erosion. An agreement with the commission stipulates that the coir envelopes must be removed after the house move is completed. Edgartown conservation agent Jane Varkonda said the envelopes are slated to be removed on Nov. 6, in advance of a Nov. 8 deadline for removal.
The next step will be landscaping, and that issue is slated for discussion before the conservation commission on Nov. 6.